Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. Today is the fourth post in my one-year series which will give you an idea of a farmer’s workload throughout the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.
As mentioned before, farmers are always watching the markets and summertime markets can be pretty volatile. There may still be old crop left to sell in the bins, or the farmer may be looking ahead to contract this year’s crop. Keep in mind, this year’s crop still has a long ways to go – lots could happen over the summer like drought, flood, hail, wind, and pest or weed damage. It’s important not to get too far ahead of yourself when contracting grain for fall or winter delivery.
This year’s crop
Planting – Depending on location and weather, farmers might be finishing up planting in early June… or possibly replanting if they came into some bad weather situations.
Scouting fields – There will be lots of “drive-bys” this month. If farm country, a drive-by is when you take the long way home so you can get a look at as many of your fields as possible. When you get next to one of your fields, you go extra slow. Sometimes you even stop to walk in a few rows. Don’t forget your pocket knife – You might need to pick at the dirt or uproot a weed or two on your way out. Farmers are studying crop emergence, soil moisture, pest activity, weed populations and anything else that catches their attention.
Side dressing – (not just for salads!) Side dressing is a best management practice used by some farmers in which Nitrogen is injected into to the cornfield post-emergence, which boots corn growth when it needs it most. There is a rather small window of time when weather conditions and corn development need to align perfectly. You can’t side dress once the corn gets too tall, or it’ll get knocked over!
Spraying – While the corn is short and easy to navigate through, farmers are spraying herbicides to prevent weed growth before it gets out of hand. Herbicides are diluted with water – and many times all that’s needed is 3 oz of active chemical per acre – the rest is water!
Many farmers feel they can breathe a small sigh of relief after all the crops are planted and have begun to emerge. Others are just as riled up as before…. praying for heat one day, and less heat the next. One field to dry out but rain on a different one. A specific kind of rain though– a long, gentle soaker that doesn’t come with any hail or wind… about an inch and a half…. Yeah… that would be perfect!